Around the web: True lies

Phil Hamilton looks at the website of Arnold Schwarzenegger

As someone best known for the size of his biceps rather than his acting ability, I doubt Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dubious talents will do him well in his new job as California’s ‘governator’. Still he seems to have wasted no time getting embroiled in sleaze. Accusations of sexual harassment aside, Greg Palast’s website has posted allegations concerning Schwarzenegger’s “political intercourse” with Enron executives. Despite his lack of political experience, he seems acutely aware of what side his bread is buttered. So it looks like it will be business as usual at the governor’s office.

The briefest glance at his official website (www.schwarzenegger.com) says a lot about him. The grey metallic sheen, overlooked by a stern looking Arnie, suggests that he takes his Terminator alter ego a little too seriously. As is expected from celebrity web pages, the majority of the space is cluttered up with useless nonsense. So we have promotions for a couple of DVDs, broadcast time for Schwarzenegger-related TV shows, and even a poll where you can vote for your favourite early TV appearance. Thrilling.

The navigation panel neatly divides the website up into easy-to-digest sections. ‘Actor’ aims to “explore different facets of his work as an actor”. It took me all of 30 seconds to take in the breadth of his talents, via the photo gallery, TV listings and filmography. The absence of a compendium of Schwarzenegger’s toe-curling catchphrases is by far the best feature here. ‘Athlete’ is a dire collection of articles on our hero’s rise to fame and the importance of physical fitness. And of course, we’re treated to more pictures of Arnold striking a pose. ‘Activist’ is completely apolitical, serving to promote Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of the ‘special Olympics’ and an after-school charity. The ‘Life’ pages invite us to dazzle our friends with Arnie trivia. (Did you know Terminator 2 3-D is, frame for frame, the most expensive film ever shot? Wow.) ‘News’ compiles an archive of more soft nonsense. ‘Store etc’ allows you to add to Schwarzenegger’s burgeoning bank balance, and finally ‘Games’ provides three simple distractions.

Information about Arnold’s infant political career is confined to the left-hand corner of the screen. The five pieces carried are pretty bland and out of date (as the news section says, “It’s not easy keeping up with Arnold”). But if there were ever any doubts about the interests Schwarzenegger will be representing in office, you will find an endorsement of his campaign by Californian manufacturing bosses tucked in there. There is little of substance on show here, which is fine for an excruciating online vanity project such as this.

The official campaign website (www.joinarnold.com) looks as if its packed to the gills with stories, articles, policies and footage. Schwarzenegger’s ego still manages to shine through: for instance, the ‘People joining Arnold’ scrolling message is so embarrassing and congratulatory that it would make Göbbels blush. The site itself follows the traditional format of drop-down menus, main field and navigation bar. The latter is split into four subsections: ‘Transition’ concerns appointments and careers, while ‘Get informed’ reads as though it was culled from his other website - except the biographical pages are far worse than anything offered there. The image of a 21-year-old Austrian arriving in the US with just $20 in his pocket is the stuff of the American dream, as are the listing of his charitable concerns, of course.

Schwarzenegger’s politics finally get a look-in at this point, with a vague-sounding policy agenda and a question and answer session on them. Though shallow, it says quite enough about the thrust of his ‘programme’. The leadership pages offer more hagiography, and endorsements list dozens of Republican activists (imagine mainstream British parties using endorsements from their activists as a central plank of election campaigns). ‘Join the team’ allows you to endorse/join the campaign and make donations. Finally ‘Services’ makes available photos, video streams and downloads.

The drop-down menus offers nothing beyond short cuts around the site. The main field is quite interesting on the eye, but again leads to little not already covered by the navigation facilities. The ‘Opinion’ link offers a dozen articles from the national press going back to early August. I was surprised to encounter so few, but it was unexpected to find a couple of critical pieces.

Whatever the case, the campaign site is so poor I almost preferred his personal one. To mangle a phrase, “I won’t be back”.